How elementary and high schools can help: the 5-2-1-0 rule

From 1981 to 1996 the number of boys and girls who were overweight doubled and the number that were obese tripled. Public Health Agency of Canada
Schools play an important role in teaching a child good eating habits and how to live an active life. Active and healthy children learn better and develop healthy habits that can last their whole lives.

Rule 5

5 or more servings of vegetables and fruit per day

Fruits and vegetables contain many nutrients that a child’s body needs and they should be the cornerstone of everyone’s diet. According to a 2004 Canadian Community Health Survey, children who eat five or more servings of vegetables and fruit a day are significantly less likely to develop overweight and obesity than children who eat less than 3 servings per day. Additional evidence supports the linkage between high vegetable and fruit consumption and decreased cancers, diabetes and heart disease rates. Help you students reach the goal of 5 or more servings of vegetables and fruit per day:

  • Learn more about implementing Healthy Buddies, a 21 week program with all lessons organized around one or more of the following by clicking here
  • Make sure your school knows about Action Schools! BC a best practices whole-school model designed to assist schools in creating and implementing individualized action plans to promote healthy living while achieving academic outcomes and supporting Comprehensive School Health.
  • Refer to the Guidelines for Food and Beverage Sales in BC Schools when selecting food items for fundraisers, vending machines, cafeterias and school stores. Advertise only healthy foods and beverages on school grounds and use healthy foods for fundraisers.
  • Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Learning Resource is a Kindergarten to Grade 10 grade-by-grade set of healthy eating and physical activity classroom-based lesson plans for the BC public school system. Ministry of Health, in partnership with Ministry of Education, developed the learning resources in consultation with students, teachers and health professionals. They are congruent with and meet minimum prescribed learning outcomes in Health and Career Education from Kindergarten to Grade 9 and Planning 10.

Rule 2

2 hours of screen time or less per day

The latest Canadian Community Health Survey data indicates that children who watch more than 2 hours of screen time (TV, computer, video games) per day have double the incidence of overweight and obesity when compared to children who watch less than 1 hour per day. Screen time takes the place of essential physical activity. Help to decrease screen time for your students:

  • Educate your students and their families to limit screen time to 2 hours or less per day and keep children physically active. We recommend the use of a timer to avoid quarrels as to how much time has elapsed.
  • Remind students and families that children should not be allowed to watch TV before 2 years of age and there should be no TV in the children’s bedroom, no matter what the child’s age.
  • Learn about Screen Smart a new program for elementary schools. This program aims to decrease recreational screen time and increase physical activity levels of students.

Rule 1

1 hour or more of physical activity per day

There is significant improvement in both physical and mental health when children and teenagers obtain their required 60 minutes of physical activity per day. But more than half of 5-17 year olds are not reaching activity levels sufficient for optimal growth and development. Encourage students to be active! According to Canada’s 24-Hour Movement Guidelines, children should engage in 60 minutes of moderative to vigorous physical activity, daily.   Vigorous physical activities and muscle and bone strengthening activities should each be incorporated at least 3 days per week.  Children should also engage in several hours of a variety of structured and unstructured light physical activities.

Rule 0

0 sugar sweetened beverages per day

We know that one of the major contributors to the childhood obesity epidemic is the over consumption of sugar sweetened beverages (SSB’s). Examples of SSB’s are soft drinks (pop), fruit “beverages” , “punches” or “cocktails” (bought or homemade), flavoured milk, sports drinks and flavoured coffees. These beverages are liquid candy and should rarely be served. 100% pure fruit juice does not contain added sugar but may well contribute to excess weight gain and portions should be limited.
Aside from weight gain, a child who drinks too many SSB’s may also have tooth decay and loose bowels or diarrhea due to problems digesting the sugars in the drinks.
Help decrease the amount of sugar sweetened beverages that children are drinking:

  • Learn about Sip Smart: From sport drinks to pop to fruit “punch”, sugar-sweetened beverages are everywhere. To help kids kick this liquid-sugar habit, the BC Pediatric Society and the Heart and Stroke Foundation launched a program in elementary schools that includes innovative resource materials and a teacher-friendly learning module. By teaching kids why it is important to drink less sugary drinks, the initiative complements BCHLA’s other efforts to reduce unhealthy choices in schools. The goal? When kids are thirsty, they reach for healthier thirst-quenchers.
  • Encourage parents to limit fruit juice to one small glass (125 mL) per day. Fruit juice contains the sugar of fruit but at higher amounts than in fresh fruit since it takes many fruits to make one glass of juice. Encourage parents to give children fresh fruit and water instead of juice.
  • Encourage parents to pack water in their child’s school lunch instead of juice.
  • Advise parents that if SSB’s are included in a meal they should be viewed as a dessert substitute.
  • Milk drinking is 30% lower in schools that sell pop and juice in vending machines. Refer to the Guidelines for Food and Beverage Sales in BC Schools when selecting food items for fundraisers, vending machines, cafeterias and school stores. Advertise only healthy foods and beverages on school grounds and use healthy foods for fundraisers.

LIVE 5-2-1-0!


or more veggies and fruit per day


no more than two hours of screen time a day

hour of physical activity or more per day


no sugary drinks